LINCOLN is an old and easy-paced city whose mighty cathedral, the third largest in England, remains the county's outstanding attraction. Reaching high into the sky from the top of a steep hill, its triple towers are visible for miles across the surrounding flatlands. This conspicuous spot was first fortified by the Celts, who called their settlement Lindon, "hillfort by the lake", a reference to the pools formed by the River Witham in the marshy ground below. In 47 AD the Romans occupied Lindon and built a fortified town, which subsequently became Lindum Colonia, one of the four regional capitals of Roman Britain.
Today, only fragments of the Roman city survive, mostly pieces of the third-century town wall, and these are outdone by reminders of Lincoln's medieval heyday, which began during the reign of William the Conqueror with the construction of the castle and cathedral. Lincoln flourished, first as a Norman power base and then as a centre of the wool trade with Flanders until 1369, when the wool market was transferred to neighbouring Boston. It was almost five hundred years before the town revived, the recovery based upon its manufacture of agricultural machinery and drainage equipment for the neighbouring fenlands. As the nineteenth-century town spread south down the hill and out along the old Roman road – the Fosse Way – so Lincoln became a place of precise class distinctions: the Uphill area, spreading north from the cathedral, became synonymous with middle-class respectability, Downhill with the proletariat. It's a distinction that remains – locals selling anything and everything still put Uphill in brackets to signify a better quality of merchandise.